As an organizational development consultant at Nintendo of America, Massimo Backus ‘08 builds on the skills he learned as a psychology student at Seattle University. Taking a page out of the university’s mission statement, Backus works at all levels of the company to develop “just and humane” leadership.
“I work with everyone from the President and the executive team to individuals across all functions and departments,” he said. “My client group is the entire organization of Nintendo and all its business units.”
Nintendo of America, headquartered in Redmond, Washington, and with offices in British Columbia, New York, and California, is a leader in the highly competitive gaming market. Backus works on strategic initiatives, implementation strategies, organization design, and change management. From one-on-one sessions to classroom trainings, he focuses on team building, managing the demands of what is expected, and aligning strategy to outcomes.
“How do you align a group around a common purpose and make sure they are working to the best of their ability, playing to their strengths, and working cohesively together?” he asked. “That’s what I work on every day.”
Backus has always been interested in understanding people, the decisions they make, and how their behaviors change over time. As a student, he took every psychology course he could and seized every opportunity to meet scholars outside the classroom. He immersed himself in the writings of Frankel, Freud, Adler, and Jung before heading to Europe with Associate Dean and Psychology Professor Kathleen La Voy. During that 3-week European Psychologists study-abroad program, he spent time with leading researchers, visited the homes of Jung and Freud, and met members of their families.
“That experience opened my eyes up to the field of psychology and just made me love it and feel a sense of pride that this would be part of my life’s work,” he recalled. “It was one of the most fantastic opportunities of my life.”
It was his interest in how and why people make the decisions they do that led Backus to produce an award-winning documentary while he was still a student. “Decision to Donate” chronicles his father’s decision to donate a kidney to a friend, the surgery, and its aftermath from the points of view of the donor, the recipient, and their families. The film and his father’s advocacy have championed the cause of organ donation throughout the United States.
Under the tutelage of LaVoy, Backus took an internship with the Nofsinger Group, a consulting firm focused primarily on assessment of executives and leaders within business and helping organizations determine who would be most suitable for top management positions. The internship, which turned into a full-time position after he graduated, led to his decision to pursue a master’s degree in organizational behavioral psychology at Claremont Graduate University.
Although joining a large consulting firm to work on global projects was exciting, he soon realized he preferred to work directly with individuals and small groups. When the job opened at Nintendo, he jumped at the chance. Now a specialist in human behavior in a business context, he puts psychology to use every day, whether developing an individual’s skills or influencing strategy with top management.
“What got me into psychology is the opportunity is bring out the best in people, and any time I get to do that in my work, it’s a win and it’s a win for those people as well,” he emphasized. “That’s primarily what drives me every day at work.”
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